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Research article2014Peer reviewedOpen access

Swedish LifeWatch ─ a biodiversity infrastructure integrating and reusing data from citizen science, monitoring and research

Gärdenfors, Ulf; Jönsson, Mari; Obst, Matthias; Wremp, Anna-Maria; Kindvall, Oskar; Nilsson, Johan


With continued pressure on biodiversity and ever-growing conflicts with human development, qualified systems for scenario modelling, impact assessment and decision support are urgently needed. Such systems must be able to integrate complex models and information from many sources and do so in a flexible and transparent way. To that end, as well as for other complicated and data-intensive biodiversity research purposes, the concept of LifeWatch has emerged. The idea of LifeWatch is to construct e-infrastructure and virtual laboratories by integrating large data sources, computational capacities, and tools for analysis and modelling in an open, serviceoriented architecture. To be efficient and accurate, a continuous inflow of large quantities of data is essential. However, even with new techniques, government-funded monitoring data and research data will not feed the system with up-to-date species information of sufficient scale and resolution. To fill this void, skilled amateur observers (citizen scientists) can contribute to a very valuable extent. After a preparatory phase, a Swedish LifeWatch (SLW) consortium was initiated in 2011. Swedish LifeWatch developed an infrastructure where all components are accessible through open web services. At the SLW Analysis portal, different formats of species and environmental data can be accessed instantly, and integrated, analysed, visualized and downloaded at selected temporal, spatial or taxonomic scales. Swedish LifeWatch currently provides 46 million species observations from eight different databases, all harmonized according to standardized formats and the Dyntaxa taxonomic backbone database. Almost 40 million of these observations were provided by citizens through the online reporting system named the Species Observation System (SOS) or Artportalen. This paper describes this system, as well as the incentives that make it so successful. The citizen science data in the SOS are accessible, together with data from research and monitoring, in the SLW infrastructure, making the latter a powerful instrument for large-scale data extraction, visualization and analysis.

Published in

Human Computation
2014, Volume: 1, number: 2, pages: 147-163